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Porgy and Bess — the opera

Muriel2017Many important issues were covered on Broadway in those 1930s musicals — issues which society would not have been comfortable confronting in other ways. Just as comedy was, and continues to be, used to help us deal with the unbearable, musicals often presented audiences with differing views than their own. Audiences were thus encouraged to look at and rethink their own attitudes.

 

 

‘Porgy and Bess’ the first and only opera created by the famous American Gershwin brothers, was written and first performed in 1935. Unfortunately, George died of a brain tumor in 1937, so no more operas followed. The magnificent songs alone make it worth seeing, however, this masterpiece is so much more than only beautiful music.

 

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Eric Owens is Porgy and Angel Blue performs Bess (The Gershwins would have been pleased by the casting)

 

 

GeorgeGershwin1898-1937

George Gershwin, 1898-1937

The Gershwin brothers, whose parents

IraGershwin1896-1983

Ira Gershwin, 1896-1983

immigrated to the U.S. from Russia, like my own — for good reason, well understood discrimination, prejudice, antisemitism — and racism. For this opera, they insisted that all performers appearing in black roles, be black. This at a time when opera singers in the U.S. were white only and using white performers in black face was common.

 

Marian Anderson1897-1993

Marian Anderson 1897-1993

 

 

Contralto Marian Anderson waited until 1955 to be able to perform in a Metropolitan Opera. Before that, she performed in concerts in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

The libretto of Porgy and Bess, set in 1920‘s South Carolina, makes a powerful statement regarding the vulnerability of the black community’s attempts at survival. All this years before Dr. Martin Luther King came along. Shamefully, the struggle still continues today.

But, if all you want are songs, Porgy and Bess has glorious songs: ‘Summertime’. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Got Plenty O’Nothin’, and then some. Definitely worth seeing! (I saw the Metropolitan’s Live Broadcast at a local theatre, and yes, all black roles were performed by black artists — as the Gershwins would have wanted..)

What really matters — a rant.

poormom

Watching the news these days is painful. For a while, we in Canada could feel a little smug, what with the political goings-on in the U.S., but we’re in the midst of a federal election right now and I’m in despair.

justin_trudeau Liberal

                       Justin Trudeau, present Prime Minister, Liberal Party

Andrew Scheer Conservative

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party

 

The ‘debates’ (a term used loosely) held on TV with the leaders of the various parties vying for power were so discouraging, I turned my TV off with frustration as I cried: ‘A pox on all your houses!’

 

I hope no one living anywhere else bothered to watch. It was too embarrassing and nothing like what I was taught when I participated on debating teams at school.

Jagmeet SinghNDP

Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party

 

It wasn’t only my poor hearing that made it impossible to understand what they were saying, they talked over each other, interrupting and arguing and wasted time referring to errors made years ago instead of discussing the very important issues now facing our country and the world and their plans to improve things.

Elizabeth May Green

Elizabeth May, Green Party

What kind of example did they set for our younger citizens? Is such rudeness acceptable???

 

Where were their heads anyway? I don’t care about what someone thought years ago. We all make mistakes and learn from them and hopefully grow. I’ve certainly changed my own ideas and if I hadn’t, I’d be stuck in the thinking of the 1950s. I imagine and hope they have grown too.

Yvbes-Francois BlanchetBlocQuebecois

Yves-Francois Blanchet, Bloc Quebecois

 

C’mon. Let’s stick to the issues. I wanna know what you’re planning to change. I worry about the future: the climate and environment; much needed childcare; making education more accessible for the young; the homeless in our streets; the orcas in our waters, etc., etc. etc.

Let’s concentrate on what really matters.

Maxime-Bernier-People's Party

Maxime Bernier, People’s Party

I am grateful to be living in Canada — it IS a wonderful democracy.  I want it to stay this way long after I am gone.

P.S. To be fair, I’ve tried to make all these photos the same size. I’m not too good at it….

Yes Virginia: There was life before plastic…

Muriel2017

by Chandra

If you listen, you’ll hear people say we won’t know how to manage without plastic bags and containers. Not to worry. There WAS life before plastic and I remember it very well. It was fine….

During Montreal’s cold winters, when I became old enough to travel streetcars on my own, mom would send me to bring hot food to my dad, who ran an unheated poultry shop. The pot I carried had a handle, but the old top didn’t fit well. Occasionally, when the streetcar rattled, the contents overflowed onto my coat. I didn’t enjoy that — but survived. It might have been a better idea to put the hot food in glass jars, wrapped them in towels, in one of those cloth shopping bags mom had. However I wasn’t bright enough to think of it.

mydad'sstore

This is what dad’s shop looked like

By the way, that unheated poultry market had live chickens delivered straight from the farm displayed in metal coops, and when a customer selected the one she wanted, the bird was quickly butchered, cleaned and packed in butcher paper, then in used newspaper, secured with a string and taken home or delivered — no styrofoam trays or plastic wrap required. (Dad would bring very fresh eggs home for us.)

1940s store

Note customer carrying groceries in paper bag

What were our grocery stores like? I remember fruits and veggies being displayed in wood boxes they originally came in, or round wood bushels. There were packages in cardboard boxes plus items in glass jars. If you purchased slices of cheese or deli meats, it was weighed and placed in butcher or waxed paper. It all got home okay.

When I ran my own household, our trash was placed in doubled paper bags in the kitchen container before being transferred, when full, to the large one outdoors. We never considered it a problem.

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Baby turtles already have many obstacles without us making life more difficult.

True, we didn’t recycle food yet. I admit I thought the sink garbage disposal was the cleverest invention ever created. (I still have one because it was already installed, but have NEVER used it since learning it pollutes our waters.)

they're worth saving

Magnificent orca, worth saving

Today I prepare food waste for recycling without plastic. My indoor container is lined with layers of newspaper and when full, tossed, paper and all, into our building’s large food waste bin. My container gets a good washing, and when dry, is ready to use again.

 

deadlyplastic

Sea creatures get stuck in this plastic and die

With so much plastic doing damage to our waterways and creatures who must live in them, we must change our ways. We’re doing too much damage and I fear for the future if we don’t stop. I know we can do it. It’s easy enough. It’s all good. Don’t worry. Just go for it.

deadanimal

Let’s end this forever

Complaining again???

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

I heard on CBC Radio a group of young people is suing the US government regarding destruction of the environment. The warnings are ominous — if we don’t act right now, the future looks bleak. Scientists warn hundreds of thousands will die of thirst and lack of food due to climate warming.

I live in what is supposedly a forward-thinking country, so what’s wrong with our politicians. Our young prime minister has young children of his own. Is he not concerned about their future? He insists the Trans Mountain pipeline will/must be built. He’s already committed my tax dollars to it.

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Construction of Transmtnpipe

Trans Mountain Pipeline

If the federal government succeeds, this pipeline will carry diluted bitumen all the way from Edmonton, Alberta, right across our ‘Naturally Beautiful’ British Columbia to Burnaby. From there the bitumen will travel by tanker across the water to wherever they want to process our dirty oil.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipe

Trans Mountain Pipeline, not pretty

Where there are pipes there ARE leaks, and the risk of oil spills along the route are likely. What the increased tanker traffic will do to our already stressed and endangered orcas and other marine life can only be imagined. I’m heartbroken…

anotheratankerTMP

tanker to carry bitumen on our waters

The governing party in my province needed the small Green Party to form a coalition in order to give them a majority. I counted on the Greens to keep them from doing too much harm to our environment.

Still, our province has approved a huge Liquid Natural Gas project In Kitimat, the Northern part of B. C. There is nothing ‘natural’ about the process used to extract the gas.Would you want something  looking like this in your back yard?

LN

LNG Project.

Besides, we’re told this ‘massive’ project will require a 670 kilometre ‘Coastal GasLink’ pipeline to the LNG plant. Another pipeline….and more tankers in our waters.
There are dozens of LNG projects around the world. Just check Mr. Google.

Recently, I read about a housewife located close to one LNG project who complained you could light the water coming out of her kitchen faucets with a match. Would you want to drink that? The officials claimed the LNG fracking had nothing to do with it.

LNGtransportBC

LNG Tanker — what will it do to marine life?

Years ago, when California announced tight restrictions on environmentally damaging cars or projects, opponents believed businesses would flee en-masse or collapse. It never happened. Instead California became a leader in safer, cleaner and lucrative industries. (Check it out.)

funny lady at computer

You may disagree

What would I prefer? Thinking about creating healthier, less environmentally damaging projects for the financial well-being of our children in the future. You need not agree with me. These are just my thoughts…. You are welcome to try to convince me I’m wrong.

Busy catching up on reading

Muriel2017

photo by my lovely Chandra Joy Kauffmann

I’ve always been an avid reader. When did it start? Perhaps when I was very young and my sisters slept in what was called a ‘double parlor’. As the youngest in the hen-pecking order, I knew enough to be quiet while they slept — or else. I remember sitting on the sofa just feet away from their bed, turning the pages slowly and carefully to not make any noise. If that’s when it began, I thank my sisters for my lifelong passion for books and reading.

In addition, I’ve worn glasses since I was three. I knew my daughter needed them when she was five because she sat too close to the TV. How did my mom know? There was no TV then. I asked. She said I would fall over my toys on the floor! Imagine how clever she was!

I’ve never had a big desire for much ‘stuff’ — except for books. If I saw one I thought I’d want to read, I’d buy it. Thus, my shelves are full of books I haven’t yet had time to read. It’s time to do so, and not buy any more. At least, I promise to try….Old lady reading

Who imagined I’d still be able to read at this venerable age? Yet I can — if the printing isn’t too small. (I can’t but thank Dr. Brian Singer, L.A. optometrist, for his expertise when others said it was impossible.) Looking through the books I haven’t read, there are those I’ll not be able to read — the print is too small. I waited too long for those. They’ll go to friends or the library. But I now have some serious reading to do.

Volwyn E. Vulliamy (1886-1971)

King Geour

About 30 years ago I picked up a copy of ‘Royal George’ (King George

King George III (1738-1820)

King George III, (1738-1820)

III) by Colwyn E. Vulliamy, published in 1937. Just finished it! This hapless king reminds me that being of royal blood doesn’t make you intelligent or wise, nor protect you from mental illness. (He’s the guy, who besides other disasters, needlessly lost the U.S. colonies.) As a history buff, it was just my kind of read.

Now, I’m onto a really old book daughter Susan bought for me years

Charles Kingsley 1819-1875

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

ago, ‘The Greek Heroes: Fairy Tales for my Children’ by Charles Kingsley, written in 1855. (Mr. Google says the busy man wrote hundreds of books.) The preface, which starts out ‘My Dear Children’ is a gem. It points out boys will need to learn this stuff and girls probably not, but will every day ‘see things we should not have had if it had not been for these old Greeks.’ Kingsley, a clergyman, made sure he instructed his young readers on proper Christian values while he was at it.

Greek gods

Greek heroes, who can resist?

Susan bought it for me because she knows I love Greek mythology AND old books. I’ve just finished reading the story about the hero Perseus, and am now enjoying the tale of Jason and the magic fleece (The Argonauts). {My husband once played Jason onstage — in French. I remember that with pleasure.} Sure, I already know these stories, but I love them and am having fun.

Greek mythology

powerful Greek Gods

Vision in our later years may not be what it once was, Mine certainly isn’t. Perhaps you also may want to read some of the neglected books sitting on your own shelves. Let me know what they are. And, happy reading!

 

 

Would you believe? A radar technician…

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Airwoman 1st Class

My children gently tease me about being technologically challenged. Well, I’ll have you know, you young whippersnappers, believe it or not, I was a radar technician during the 1950s. It was the height of technology at the time and I did it for the Air Force! So there!

The Air Force Auxiliary paid more per hour than I earned at my office job and I was always interested in earning extra money. They provided a free air-force uniform, winter coat and shoes, plus trips to the mountains on weekends, which, because I didn’t date much, were boring anyway.

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Arriving by bus — Mary, a devout Catholic, and I attended Church services every Sunday morning

It proved to be an adventure. They’d drive our ‘flight’ (class) to the Radar Station atop a mountain by bus. It was an interesting experience and I look back at it with pleasure.

I also had my very first marriage proposal (from a regular airman) whom, I believe, really meant it. I shall never, ever forget that! He was from Prince Edward Island and handsome in his uniform. I’ve never been to PEI, but have always wanted to visit there because of this memory. Perhaps he was attracted to me because I was the first virgin he ever dated. He told me I was, he respected me for it, and never attempted to change my status.

airforece-auxiliary-1950s

No, I didn’t get garbage detail, but already had a twisted sense of humor

Some other flight colleagues obtained jobs at Montreal’s Dorval airport. It was miles away from my home and I didn’t drive. The mere thought of bracing dark winters on public transit all the way out there didn’t appeal. I just didn’t have the courage. Thus, I was perhaps saved some health issues.

My friend Philip was a WWII pilot. Now, he chuckles when he tells me that on the way out on flying missions, he’d turn hot and cold, a cold hand would clutch his innards and oops, the poor guy would throw up — in the cockpit. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him, and unpleasant for others. Surprise, surprise — they didn’t want to fly with him. So Philip was grounded — and he believes probably survived the war as a result.

Recently, I heard on CBC Radio that Radar Technicians from the 50s are trying to get compensation from the government for health issues resulting from electromagnetic rays they experienced from those early radar screens. I could have been one of them. The only reason I’m not is — I was chicken.

Former radar technicians complain of ‘headaches, fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbance, irritability, dizziness, memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction and occasionally shortness of breath after exertion……

‘During the 1960s and 1970s, ophthalmologist Milton Zaret, under contract with the Army and Air Force, examined the eyes of thousands of military and civilian personnel working at radar installations in the US and Greenland. Large numbers of them, he found, were developing cataracts….caused by chronic exposure to radiation of the eye at power densities around one milliwatt per square centimeter — a level which is regularly exceeded by each of the two and a half billion cell phones in use today.’ (Birenbaum et al. 1969, Zaret 1973)

I did develop early cataracts, which my eye specialist called ‘juvenile cataracts’. But they were probably as a result of my juvenile brain rather than being caused by 1950s radar screens.

projectionist-certificate-mur

Okay, so I don’t know how to scan these and get them straight, but I’ll learn

I looked for some of the photos taken then with one of those Brownie cameras, (remember?) and also found my official R.C.A.F. Projectionist Certificate. Hey guys, look at me!!! This old gal was up on the newest technology of her time — the 1950s. Have some respect.

 

 

 

(For more information on older radar screens, microwaves, and televisions, try Google.)

Hudson’s Bay Company and — Tsar Nicholas????

Muriel Susan

Daughter Susan and me, you can blame her for this blog

I’m not a shopper. I have no patience and particularly hate trying on clothes. I also don’t like large department stores — haven’t a clue where things are and too often can’t find someone to ask. Our Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is one such store. I avoid it if I can. They once had a huge sign on the outside of their downtown location declaring ‘Shopping is good’. I didn’t approve. The statement is debatable, but that’s a whole other story.

Our bodies have to be clothed, so it becomes necessary now and then to shop.

summer pants at HBC

found a new pair of these at HBC

That means going to larger stores for me. I’m short. I need a petite. Most smaller stores don’t carry petites, so I went to HBC for my recent summer clothing requirements. Who’d have imagined what I read about them later?

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HBC didn’t only buy and sell furs

I’m a history buff. Of course I knew HBC, as one of the oldest businesses in existence, would have a long history. However in reading ‘The Secret Plot To Save The Tsar’ by Shay McNeale, I learned the company had been involved in far more than just buying and selling furs.

The book says HBC was contracted to construct a residence in Murmansk, in northern Russia, to be used as a safe house for Tsar Nicholas II and his family pending a hopeful rescue by the Allies in 1917. It was believed/hoped this might even lead to the Tsar’s eventual return to power. And it was HBC’s Henry Armitstead (1877-1956) who headed the project.

During World War One, (1914-1918) HBC operated as purchasing agents for France, Russia, Romania as well as others. The firm had headquarters in London. They were able to claim the house was being built for use by employees, but it was paid for by the British Admiralty and constructed under the auspices of the British Secret Service. (Armitstead’s boss, C.V. Sale, was head of HBC at the time.)

As during most revolutions, in the Russia of 1917, factions jostled for power. Bolsheviks, Czechs, the White Army, Reds, Cossacks, Caucasians, and others manoeuvred, used extortion, blackmail, ransoms, bribes and double-dealing to gain control of the country during the civil war. Agents and double agents infiltrated the various factions, often changing identities and names, other countries utilized a multi-tracked policy of espionage. It was a real, live ‘cloak and dagger’ whodunnit with murders and disappearances a common occurrence. Lenin was a master at the game. He accepted huge bribes from all sides — and was the guy who trained Stalin — only too well.

Family II

Tsar Nicholas II and family

King George V and first cousin Tsar Nicholas, often called twins

First cousins: Tsar Nicholas and King George V ‘The Twins’

What is the truth? Did the Tsar and his family actually survive? To this day some think so. Some don’t. The Tsar was closely related to many other European Royals. His first cousin, King George V of England, and he looked so much alike they were often called ‘The Twins’ and easily mistaken for each other.

Do I think they survived? No.

And what do the Hudson’s Bay’s records say of all this? Their

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HBC Winnipeg — archives

archives are online and fascinating — I spent hours totally intrigued. They say Armitstead was indeed employed by them and was posted in Archangel, on a ‘special trade mission’ during 1917.  Archangel (Arkhangeiska) is located in the north of Russia. Interesting, no?